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Dell To Add Kiosks, Plasma TVs

Round Rock, Texas — Dell today reported plans to expand its mall-based kiosk program and that the company will have a line of plasma televisions ready in time for the 2004 holiday selling season.

Michael Farello, Dell’s U.S. consumer marketing VP, said starting in July the company will add about 20 new kiosks with all going into the Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego markets. When the rollout is completed Dell will have 85 facilities in seven states. The new kiosks will have the same 10-foot by 10-foot format as the current kiosk crop and will showcase all of Dell’s PC and CE products, including the upcoming plasma TVs.

Farello described the kiosks as “a low-cost path to the customer.”

The new kiosks will operate in the same manner as the established facilities by acting as a product showcase, enabling customers to personally inspect products and then place an order through the kiosk’s sales associate for home delivery.

While Dell internally tracks sales through the kiosks, the company would not say what impact these facilities are having on company’s bottom line.

Few details were given on the upcoming plasma televisions. Farello would not give any technical details on Dell’s new line of plasma TVs other than to say the models will have screen sizes in excess of 30 inches. On the marketing side, he did say the sets would be priced along the same lines as the company’s LCD models, that is very aggressively and that they would not suffer from screen burn.

“We initially avoided plasma due to quality issues,” Farello said, “but now we feel the quality is there.”

Mike George, Dell’s U.S. consumer segment VP/GM, said the company’s LCD monitors and televisions are selling well and that the industries’ initial thought that consumers needed to see the products prior to purchase were unfounded.

“We are finding [established] Dell customers are more willing to with our televisions and don’t need to see them in advance. They trust us to put forth a quality product,” he said.

The kiosks can help in this area by giving the skeptical an opportunity to see first hand what they are buying, but George said very few customers see the flat-panel TV in person prior to purchase.

Dell also announced a new online support site that is launching later this month. The site will feature tech-help chat rooms and will be easier to navigate then the current site. In response to the large number of problems its customers are having with spyware and other cyber threats, Dell will kick off a campaign to educate users on how to protect their computer. George said up to 15 percent of Dell’s tech help calls are in some way related to problems caused by spyware.